Article By Josh Wild
Suzuki S-Cross Action

AWD and 4WD: What's The Difference?

You'll no doubt have come across various terms relating to 4x4 such as AWD, 4WD, Quattro, ALLGRIP, ALL4 and 4Motion. As confusing as these terms can be, they all relate to two different types of 4x4 cars: 4-wheel drive or All-wheel drive, and they are quite different from each other.


4WD or 4-wheel drive cars, like the Suzuki Vitara ALLGRIP and Nissan X-Trail 4WD spend the majority of their time running as a 2WD car unless the need arises. With this type of system, the 4-wheel drive mode doesn't kick in until it detects slipping on one of the two wheels powering the car, thus allowing the car to grip and remain stable. Modern cars often have mode selectors which allow you to turn the 4WD on permanently, for such instances as driving in snow where slipping could occur frequently.


Cars which come under the AWD category like the Subaru Forester, Outback and XV, are in permanent 4-wheel drive mode. This means that all four wheels are powered 100% of the time. This is particularly useful if the driver is negotiating rugged, off-road terrain. Professions such as farming often require this capability, which is why you'll often see them in vehicles like Land Rovers which are permanently 4-wheel drive!

So What Are The Advantages Of 4-Wheel Drive Cars

​Regardless of whether the car is permanent 4-wheel drive or not, 4x4 cars give added stability and grip in situations where a standard 2WD car may slip or get stuck. Where two wheels are only at work in a 2WD car, all 4 wheels work together simultaneously in a 4x4 to move the vehicle. If you live in a rural location with muddy tracks, or your job involves frequent off-road trips - then a car with 4x4 capability is likely to be a priority for you.

Where performance is a factor, 4WD cars are quicker off the mark than a standard rear or front wheel drive car because all the power is applied to all the wheels from the get go, so there is no lack of traction. Combine this with launch control which many performance cars also come with, and this is one of the reasons that these heavier cars with lower bhp can outperform lighter, higher-powered 2WD models.

Ok, What About Disadvantages?

​To power four wheels instead of two requires additional vehicle parts, and in the case of 4WD cars (rather than AWD), it requires additional technology on board to control when the system kicks in. These extra parts and technology come at a cost and weight meaning that 4x4 cars are more expensive to purchase and run. The extra weight and the need to power twice as many wheels also means an increase in running costs. Though the latter can be circumvented to a degree in 4WD cars thanks to their clever selective mode technology.

I Don't Have A Big Budget. Does That Mean I Can't Afford A 4x4?

Not at all! We have new 4x4 cars available throughout the Suzuki, Nissan and Subaru range plus many on offer from our impressive selection of used cars which means you'll be able to find one to suit your budget. Take a look:

"The Suzuki Swift 4x4 brings all-weather ability to the buyer who wants a new car but doesn't need a bulk of an SUV" - RAC

Suzuki Ignis SZ5 ALLGRIP - From £16,249

The top spec model Ignis also comes in the ALLGRIP variety, meaning you get all the fantastic equipment and safety features from the standard Ignis, combined with the added security of 4x4 capability. Fuel economy is not sacrificed either at the expense of powering two additional wheels, with the new Ignis having an impressive 62.7 combined MPG.

Plus the Suzuki Ignis is currently available with 1 years FREE insurance and 3 years FREE servicing

"No, this is not a car for serious off-road antics, but it'll likely get further than most owners would dare to take it, plus it'll be quite a lot of fun in the meantime" - AutoCar

Other Models To Consider

The Suzuki Jimny(limited availability - whilst stocks last), the Suzuki Vitara ALLGRIP or the Suzuki S-Cross ALLGRIP.

We also always have a great selection of low mileage Nearly New and Ex-Demonstrator Suzuki models available.

Nissan All-New Nissan Qashqai Tekna - £30,395

The All-New Nissan Qashqai is not only more like an SUV than the Ignis, it also has 4WD. The Tekna also comes with a 12.3-inch digital display, 9-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with navigation.

“One of Britain’s best-selling cars, the Qashqai is quiet, comfy and homemade, too"- TopGear

Nissan X-Trail Acenta 4WD - From £28,690

The capable Nissan X-Trail has been a favourite of 4x4 car buyers for many years, thanks to its optional 7 seats, safety technology and exceptional ride. 4x4 models span the range with a choice of diesel engines and manual or automatic transmission, meaning that buyers have plenty to choose between.

"It’s an interesting car that drives better than you might think, and it’s also very comfortable for families – even on rough roads. We also like the roomy and adaptable interior."- Car Magazine

The Subaru Range

As we mentioned above, Subaru offers several AWD (permanent 4x4) cars in their range to suit varying budgets. These are in the form of the Impreza, XV, Levorg, Forester, Outback and the renowned WRX STI. These cars are equipped with Subaru's capable, and dependable symmetrical AWD:

The entire drive system, from the longitudinally-mounted horizontally-opposed engine to the rear differential, is mounted in a straight, symmetrical line. But that’s not the only difference. Subaru’s Symmetrical AWD technology is also permanently engaged: the power is continually and actively distributed to the individual wheel or wheels with the best traction.

Alongside Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive, the slim, balanced Boxer engine sits centrally, deeper in the engine bay, lowering the car’s centre of gravity. This perfect combination of even weight distribution and traction limits chassis rolling and pitching in corners or when braking, improving handling and the ride.